Wherever I look I see one group glaring at another. Is this competition in action or nonsense at work? Well, that depends on the stakes and the stakeholders. When these are similar for both groups, then we do have a problem.

When Charles Darwin reached the islands around Cape Horn, the locals ignored his ship. As a group, these islanders did not believe that something that big could float, therefore it did not exist. They shared a common perception of reality which made it easier to understand one another. But it meant that they ignored the same threats and missed the same opportunities.

Even educated groups today suffer these consequences of groupthink, happily increasing the stakes but not the benefits to their stakeholders. They too will not see their ship come in because, as Darwin warned, it is not the strongest, nor the most intelligent, who survive, but the ones most adaptable to change.

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Listen to the radio version of Glaring to miss your ship come in (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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It’s Easter egg hunting time so let me remind you that over many centuries and in many cultures the egg represents new life, rebirth and Spring. Somewhere along the way this symbol of promise has become a little tainted, at least for me.

The Easter eggs of my early years had substance. They were stuffed with a sweet filling, stuff you could bite into, stuff you could chomp on. It was during my sensitive teen years that I discovered the trick Easter egg – all shell and no substance.

I love chocolate, which is why I was seduced by the shell. But the shock of it – biting into thin air!

So began my decline into a cynical adulthood. Thanks to those empty symbols of fake fertility I am perpetually suspicious of anything too nicely wrapped. To this day I remain on guard against the latest sugar-coated ball of air, the not quite empty promise.

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Listen to the radio version of Beware the not quite empty promise (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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One reason why things get out of control, things like personal budgets and national deficits, is that we have a nasty habit of getting stuck in the past. We stay committed to a course of action when new information warns us not to. We hang in when we should let go.

Here are four reasons why we do so: (1) we tend to seek out information that supports our own argument, and to discount information that does not; (2) we tend to distort information so that it appears more in line with our thinking; (3) we tend to think we will lose face if we publicly change our mind; and (4) we tend to hang in because of the time, money and effort we have already spent.

The surest way to get beyond stuck is to update your beliefs and behaviors when faced with new information. If you don’t or won’t update, you’ll be passed over or passed by.

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Listen to the radio version of Let go to hang in (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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When people in power decide to give you less while making sure they continue to receive more themselves, then their personal power is at stake. But I guess they have forgotten that, else they would not be that stupid. So let me remind them what personal power is.

Personal power relates directly to the willingness of people to follow you. Followers give you personal power, based on the trust and confidence they have in you. This is based on your past experience, your current performance and your ability to influence them.

Your followers make your power legitimate when they believe that it is appropriate for you to make decisions because of your position. Holding a position of power in a hierarchy does not mean that you can abuse your followers, whether in business, a non-profit, a government department, or even in congress.

Never forget that you earn personal power from your followers. Abuse it, and they will take it away.

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Listen to the radio version of Power on loan (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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Too many problems, too little time. Or maybe we have simply not defined our problems correctly. A guy named Gharajedaghi once pointed out that, “We fail more often not because we fail to solve the problem we face, but because we face the wrong problem.”

He should have added that it also depends which way you are facing. George Shultz, who was both Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State, although not at the same time, once said that we tend to face the past and back into the future.

You see, the future tends to have different problems requiring new solutions. This is why Henry Ford said, “History is bunk!” He faced the right way; else he would have built a better horse and bugging instead of the Model T.

So, I ask you, which way are you facing? Which way is your business facing? And which way are our politicians facing?

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Listen to the radio version of Back into the wrong problem (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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With another stalemate in Washington, I feel compelled to ask, ‘are they insane?’ Let’s use the Albert Einstein insanity test: Are they doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

It’s easy to behave insanely in this way. Behavior psychologists even have a name for it – repetition compulsion. They discovered it by studying pigeons. Pigeons tend to repetitively peck the same button to get a corn pellet, even though random pecking leads to the same result, and even if the original button no longer delivers as expected.

Like pigeons, some people seem addicted to repeat today what worked in the past, even though today is a different button.

Obviously, we are not pigeons and our affairs are not static; we face constant change. It should be common sense that doing same things over and over will not produce different outcomes. It is time to peck at a different button… or go insane.

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Listen to the radio version of Peck here to go insane (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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Can efficiency cost too much? You decide:

In 2004, the FAA proposed reducing air traffic controller staff in the name of efficiency. In August 2006 a plane crashed while attempting to take off from a runway that was too short – there was only one controller, performing both tower and radar duties. In March 2011, two planes landed safely at Reagan National Airport after they were unable to reach anyone in the control tower. These are only two examples of many near misses and a few fatal ones.

In March, 2005, there was an explosion at BP’s Texas City Refinery. BP had failed to implement many safety recommendations made before the blast. Five years later came the Gulf oil spill. Guess what? BP had made a series of money-saving shortcuts that increased risk and danger just six days before the explosion.

But, hey, at least they were saving money by being really efficient. Are you?

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Listen to the radio version of The cost of relentless efficiency (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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Am I’m qualified to be a US citizen? This month I face my first real test.

To date, the bulk of my taxes have been paid in a so-called developing country, one step up from a third-world one. Let me tell you, based on that experience, I pay my US taxes with a smile and a ‘thank you’. I know what it’s like to pay taxes without receiving much in return. Here I get many benefits – libraries, schools, roads and, amazingly, actual law enforcement.

However, every year I stay in the USA changes my perceptions, because every year another memory of third-world taxation is lost to the non-stop public griping about US taxes.

This year I unexpectedly owe a chunk of change to the IRS. So this is the real test, the citizenship one: Will I hand it over graciously? Or have I become Americanized enough that I will only do so grudgingly?

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Listen to the radio version of The citizenship tax test (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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